The Bow Valley Trail (Hwy 1A), is an alternate route to the mountains from Calgary. Like the slower pace of life in Cochrane, the slower speed limit on the Bow Valley Trail allows you to better enjoy the glorious views along the way. The flowing fields bordering the river and the panoramic views of the mountains create a great backdrop for bird watching! There is such a variety of birds – an hour in any direction from Cochrane, I refer to these amazing bird-watching places as “My Backyard”.
While exploring my backyard on my photography adventures, I’ve found a few excellent birding locations along the back roads. You can enjoy all of these drives in one day or spend several hours in each area. Here are my TOP THREE birding excursions near the Bow Valley Trail.
Excursion #1 – just 8 minutes east of Cochrane’s city limits, turn north onto Lochend Road. This entire road is a birding paradise with ponds being the ideal bird watching spots. What will you see? Sandpipers, blue heron, swans (in the spring and fall) and more than a dozen varieties of ducks! Travel north 9.1 km, then loop back to town by turning west, and eventually south, on Glendale Road (Township Rd 264A). Keep your eyes peeled because bald eagles and hawks are often in this area. This curvy back road will take you through some beautiful country side. Follow it all the way back to Hwy 1A.
Excursion #2 – right within the Town of Cochrane, the place that started me down my birding journey. With 34 parks and 60 km of walking trails, you can spend days in the serenity of the valley. Visit William and Kate, the annual nesting osprey pair, at their home located on the wooden perch in the middle of the Cochrane Toyota parking lot. On the way, watch the ponds on Hwy 22 just before James Walker Trail. It’s home to nesting coots, horned grebes and blue herons as they pass through town. Travel down to Riviera Pond. Here you will find goldfinch, northern flickers, baby ducks and geese hatched on the pond in the spring. Watch for baby house wrens and sandpipers along the banks of the Bow River. Riverfront and Mitford Parks are also great bird-watching locations!
Excursion #3 My favorite place to bird year-round is north west of Cochrane. On Horse Creek Road you will find flocks of snow bunting in the winter. You can spot Wilson snipes, red-winged blackbirds, cedar waxwings and eastern kingbirds in the spring. Sparrows flock in the summer and you’ll marvel at the hawks learning to fly in the fall. Grand Valley Road is home to the raptors and an owl lovers’ paradise – eagles, hawks, kestrels, short eared and great grey owls. The valley is also home to meadowlarks, ruffed grouse and bobolinks just to name a few. There’s always something new and remarkable to see and the views of the mountains make this truly a spectacular place to visit!
You’ll be amazed at the “Nature in my Backyard”. Just remember to take your camera, binoculars, and your time. And please respect the wildlife.
Story and photography by Jo-Anne Oucharek – Bird and Wildlife Photographer